KEXP Q&A: La Luz’s Shana Cleveland

photo by Renata Steiner

La Luz has been through a lot since their debut EP Damp Face hit the airwaves and internets. From a U.S. tour, to playing with Of Montreal and The Head and the Heart, to sustaining serious injuries after getting hit by a semi while on the road, to releasing their new LP, It’s Alive, to replacing their bass player and much more. We caught up with lead singer and songwriter, Shana Cleveland, to talk with her about the past year.

You all were recently on Last Call with Carson Daly. What was it like to see yourselves on national TV (and stay up late to see it)?

Alice and I went to a pub where our friend was bartending to watch our big TV debut. I walked there with my boyfriend and on the way there we saw Richie from Rose Windows walking across the street. He was super baked and decided to join us. We ate popcorn that had truffle oil on it because everyone seems to think that’s a good idea now a days. We got there kind of early so we watched the late show before the Carson Daly late show that had some other white dude as host. That show sucked! Let’s see, oh yeah then the Carson Daly show started and our segment came on. It was awesome!

La Luz now features a new bass player. How did that change come about? 

Well our original bass player, Abbey, wasn’t really into touring (like reasonable people). And I don’t think getting hit by a semi truck made her like it any better. After our ill-fated tour with Of Montreal, Abbey told us that she’d do one more tour and then quit. So we asked our friend Lena Simon to join. We never really ended up trying out anyone else because we knew Lena would be perfect. She’s a pro.

Since the accident that stopped short the tour with Of Montreal, what has it been like to get back into a van and go out on the road?

We’re a little jumpier. A lot jumpier. We get freaked out sometimes on the road, but I think it gets easier the more we do it. In spite of all the danger, I love the road. I like meeting people in other cities and getting a glimpse into their lives. It makes the world feel smaller in a comforting way.

Do you still incorporate the Soul Train Dance Line into your live shows? Any other new show wrinkles?

We feel it out show by show. When it looks like people either really want to or really need to let loose, we request the Soul Train. On the last tour, we came up with something called “crowd surf cam”, which is just what it sounds like. We strap a camera onto someone’s head and send them over the arms of the audience. Sadly most of the footage gathered hasn’t turned out very good. Lots of ceiling. But it’s really fun to watch.

What’s been the best thing to happen to the group since It’s Alive was released, musically or otherwise?

The best thing has been meeting fans while on the road. Like these best friends in LA who had made their own La Luz pins. Or a guy that drove from hours away in Mexico to see us. And hearing from people who love our music and encouraged us to keep touring and working on new material after the accident. The Japanese record store that gathered donations from fans there to help us out, and the teenage girl in Australia who throw a bake sale at her high school in our honor. Those strange, wonderful things give us the energy we need to maintain what can feel like a pretty insane schedule of touring.

What do you do to relax between shows/tour?

We play as much ping-pong as possible.

Like many bands, La Luz will be performing live in Austin next week during SXSW. They’ll be part of the KEXP showcase, co-sponsored with Sub Pop + Hardly Art, on Thursday, March 13th, at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. If you happen to be in Austin, come check out this free show. Find out more here.

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